NASA’s InSight lander captures first sounds of wind on Mars

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Updated

December 08, 2018 11:42:01

NASA’s new Mars lander has captured the first sounds of the Martian wind.

Key points

  • The sounds were collected by an air pressure sensor inside the InSight lander
  • The recorded wind is estimated to be blowing at 16 kph to 24 kph
  • The noise is the sound of the wind blowing against the lander’s solar panels as well as vibrations of the craft

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory released audio clips of the alien wind after the low-frequency rumblings were collected by the InSight lander during its first week of operations at Mars.

The wind is estimated to be blowing 16 kph to 24 kph. Researchers say these are the first sounds from Mars that are detectible by human ears.

“Reminds me of sitting outside on a windy summer afternoon … In some sense, this is what it would sound like if you were sitting on the InSight lander on Mars,” Cornell University’s Don Banfield told reporters.

Scientists involved in the project agree the sound has an otherworldly quality to it.

Thomas Pike of Imperial College London said the rumbling was “rather different to anything that we’ve experienced on Earth, and I think it just gives us another way of thinking about how far away we are getting these signals.”

The noise is of the wind blowing against InSight’s solar panels and the resulting vibration of the entire spacecraft.

The sounds were recorded by an air pressure sensor inside the lander that is part of a weather station, as well as the seismometer on the deck of the spacecraft.

The low frequencies are a result of Mars’ thin air density and even more so the seismometer itself; it is meant to detect underground seismic waves, well below the threshold of human hearing.

The seismometer will be moved to the Martian surface in the coming weeks. Until then, the team plans to record more wind noise.

The 1976 Viking landers on Mars picked up spacecraft shaking caused by wind, but it would be a stretch to consider it sound, InSight’s lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt of JPL in Pasadena, California, said.

The “really unworldly” sounds from InSight, meanwhile, have Mr Banerdt imaging he is “on a planet that’s in some ways like the Earth, but in some ways really alien”.

InSight landed on Mars on November 26.

“We’re all still on a high from the landing last week … and here we are less than two weeks after landing, and we’ve already got some amazing new science,” NASA’s Lori Glaze, acting director of planetary science, said.

“It’s cool, it’s fun.”

AP

Topics:

science-and-technology,

space-exploration,

spacecraft,

astronomy-space,

planets-and-asteroids

First posted

December 08, 2018 11:25:00



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